Antiochus Kantemir

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Memorial in the patio of Saint Petersburg State University in philological department

Prince Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir (Антиох Дмитриевич Кантемир in Russian, Antioh Cantemir in Romanian, Dimitri Kantemiroğlu in Turkish, Antioche Cantemir in French; 8 September 1708 – 31 March 1744) was a Moldavian-born Russian Enlightenment man of letters and diplomat.

Kantemir was born to the Moldavian Prince Dimitrie Cantemir and Princess Kassandra Cantacuzene in Iaşi.[1]

Educated by his father and at the Saint Petersburg Academy, having spent much of his youth as a hostage in Ottoman Constantinople, Antiokh joined Dimitrie in Russia at their estate in Dmitrovsk.

His work reflects the scope and purpose of Peter the Great's European-style reforms, standing out as a contribution to the integration of Russian culture into the world circuit of Classicism. In this respect, the most noticeable effort is his Petrida, an unfinished epic glorifying the Emperor.

From 1731 he was Russian envoy to London (where he brought along the manuscript to Dimitrie's History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire, also writing the biography and bibliography of his father that accompanied the English 1756 edition). From 1736 until his death, Antiokh was minister plenipotentiary in Paris, where he was a noted intellectual figure and close friend to Montesquieu and Voltaire.

Kantemir's language seems dull and antiquated to the modern reader, because he stuck to the gallic system of rhyming, which was subsequently discarded. His best known poems are several satires in the manner of Juvenal, including To My Mind: On Those Who Blame Education and On the Envy and Pride of Evil-Minded Courtiers.

Kantemir translated de Fontenelle into Russian (1740 – Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds), although this was partly censored as heretical. He also produced a tract on old Russian versification (1744) and translated the poetry of Horace and Anacreon into Russian. His own philosophical work is the 1742 Letters on Nature and Man ("O prirode i cheloveke").

Antioch Kantemir died a bachelor in Paris, while the litigation concerning his illegitimate children dragged on for years[citation needed].


  1. Pavel Gusterin. Первый российский востоковед Дмитрий Кантемир / First Russian Orientalist Dmitry Kantemir. — М., 2008. — ISBN 978-5-7873-0436-7.

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